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Abortion Access Post Roe for Teens with Stephanie Kraft Sheley, JD, MHA

Missouri lawyer & consultant: youth + abortion + birth

Stephanie Kraft Sheley joins Sabia for an interview to discuss birth rights. Stephanie is a lawyer in Missouri & a consultant on youth + abortion + birth. Stephanie is also the Founder & Program Director of RightByYou, a youth-focused text line connecting Missourians to abortion care, birth care, adoption and parenting supports, birth control, and information about their rights. In this episode, we talk about the process of access abortion as a person under 18 years of age and how that will be affected Post Roe.

IG: @kraftspacesheley

IG: @textrightbyyou


We apologize in advance for the quality of this trasncript, which was processed by

Unknown Speaker 0:03

Hello, Stephanie, Stephanie Kraft Sheley. Right? of, Right By You, your organization. Well, one, thank you for being here. Again, like I have to, like thank everyone like, this is a quick turnaround, because shit is happening now. So I appreciate you taking the time to just like jump in this with me and share the work that you're doing and just share with us we're gonna do so anyway. So can you just introduce yourself, tell us what your organization about all that kind of stuff?

Unknown Speaker 0:38

Yeah, I'm Stephanie Kraft Sheley. My pronouns are she/her and I'm a lawyer, I'm licensed in Missouri and Illinois. I've been a judicial bypass lawyer, which means I help young people get access to abortion care, through a court process when they can't involve their parents. And my organization, right by you is an all options confidential and anonymous text line that helps Missouri teens access abortion care, in a state with one clinic, that doesn't really provide very many abortions and a very confused set of laws around youth access and like, in states in a state with a lot of restrictions that borders a lot of states with heavy restrictions. Yeah, just a mess, basically.

Unknown Speaker 1:29

So can you give us like a brief understanding of the current process for people under 18, seeking an abortion without parental consent, I guess would be the word. But yeah.

Unknown Speaker 1:41

It actually depends on the state. So some states have no requirement at all. Very few states, Illinois is about to be one of those states on June 1, it has just repealed its parental notice law. But for those states that do that there are 37 states that do require some parental involvement. And some states require notification. So telling the parent, some states require consent. So getting permission from the parent, sometimes those can be functionally the same. Sometimes they're not.

Unknown Speaker 2:13

Like, what does that mean to tell them like you how do you prove this, you told them,

Unknown Speaker 2:17

also, the clinic either has to call them or send like a certified letter often. So it's usually the clinics responsibility to make sure that the notification or consent happened. And so that can create a lot of issues in itself. So you can imagine that a clinic might require a an adult to show up with identity documents that link them to the young person and all of the equity issues of that can cause. So Missouri is a consent state. So that's the kind of higher bar you have to have permission, not just tell the parent. And all the states that touch it, besides Illinois are also consent states, Illinois is right now notification state is about to be a no parental involvement state. But in every state that requires parents to be involved, there is a constitutionally mandated court process, that basically, a young person goes before a judge, and tries to make the case that they're either mature and well enough informed to make this decision for themselves, or that it's in their best interest to do so. So something about their circumstances, is compelling enough that like it's a safety issue or something. And so, courts vary a lot in their understanding of this, whether they understand that it is even required, whether they have a process set up to protect the confidentiality of a young person going through the process, you know, you can imagine things like just the case getting filed in an electronic court system could compromise the confidentiality. So like, all these things you have to think about with that. And then just the matter of like getting out of school and getting to court, when like, for a lot of young people, they're supposed to be somewhere or someone is alerted that they're not there. So

Unknown Speaker 4:06

how does that like some we think about? So if someone if a teenager gets pregnant, and like, what is the timeframe and to actually receive an abortion, right, because I would imagine one, there's like the research part of it, they're trying to figure out what what do I even need to do, right? Like, they want to have the information easily accessible to them, which I'm guessing a great majority don't. And then to, like you said that whole process around like, if they have to get you know, the consent or this or if they do have to go to the court and all other stuff, like how long does that take to even get to the actual procedure?

Unknown Speaker 4:47

Yeah, it totally varies. And you're right, like I don't haven't seen research on this. I don't know if it's out there, but like my sense is that young people the first time they find out This judicial bypass process exists is like after they're pregnant and they're searching. So it's like that process of like trying to find is there a lawyer available. So like, some states have a legal resource set up that is specifically for this, and they have an online presence, and you can find them and other states, it's like, very unclear how you even get this. And calling the clinic is sometimes helpful, and sometimes it's not. And so it can be really, really challenging. And there is there are studies out there about the ways that it delays care. So one in particular, that I'm thinking of, like, it was very clear that the judicial bypass process itself delayed young people's access to care. And then, for young people living in rural areas for young people of color for young black people, they were like, even more delayed. And so then they're having later abortions that are more expensive. Yeah, more intense, like might require,

Unknown Speaker 5:57

as a teenager getting money from you know what I mean? Like, right,

Unknown Speaker 6:01

which there is there's good financial assistance available for young people who go through the judicial bypass process. That's one positive is that like, that's not usually the challenge. But I'm, I'm worried sometimes that like, young people see what it costs and like, no one has a chance to tell them that right. Like, there is that help? And so yeah, it's it's very complicated. It certainly delays care. And like, there are different laws in different places about how quickly the court has to, once you've filed the petition, how quickly they have to have a hearing, and then how quickly they have to decide. And then if you get a bad decision, how quickly that appeals process goes, because obviously, it's very time sensitive. But so like some courts, I can't think off my head Exactly. But like some courts is a matter of like just a couple of days or a few days. Others and it also depends on like, is the court generally willing, like this particular generally willing to grant these? If the right case is made? Or are there judges out there that like, don't, don't want to grant these or they're like,

Unknown Speaker 7:11

even though it might be legal and quote unquote, accessible to some level, you're still dealing with the bullshit of like, what Judge am I working with? Right? Like, are they just personally against us? And like, I'm just not going to get he asked, regardless, or, you know, am I working with someone who, who's more willing to do that?

Unknown Speaker 7:29

Yeah. And like some courts, if you call them I mean, they've studied this in Missouri, if you call them they, like, don't know that this is a requirement that they provide this. And they might say abortion is illegal. I'm going to transfer you to the prosecutor's office. I mean, just ridiculous answers. When you think about like young people interacting with the courts, like, again, it overburdens young people whose previous interactions of their families, previous interactions with the court system have been extremely harmful and traumatic. And now they have to go and basically, like, beg for the right to make decisions about their own body, and it's quite upsetting.

Unknown Speaker 8:07

Yes, it is a lot. So. So we're thinking about post Roe, right? Like, if roe is overturned, what does that mean for Missouri? One, and then specifically, what does that mean for teams like?

Unknown Speaker 8:31

It's bad. So Missouri has and also like, I think we might have moved now from if to win. But, but so, I mean, Missouri already has, like I might have said earlier, one abortion clinic. It's on the far east side of the state. And it provides very few abortions because the state has basically regulated the ability to provide abortions in like a timely and humane manner just out of existence in a clinic setting. Telemedicine abortion is outlawed in Missouri. And so you, the vast majority of abortion seekers in Missouri are already going out of state. The state is actively trying to pass measures that would punish anyone who helps someone go out of state like that's the next thing they're going to do. And if roe falls when roe falls, there's a trigger ban already in effect in Missouri, which mean which is it will be fully outlawed fully for sure. Sorry. And so there's already a law that allows people to sue other people for helping teens leave the state for abortion and so it's a mess already and for teens. What we don't know is you know this right to This court process so so right now there's parental consent. And the Supreme Court found that there had to be another avenue, there had to be this way that you could go to court. And because there were situations that were so unsafe or so like, untenable for a young person to be able to involve their parents. So they said that constitutionally, they have to have another avenue. Well, that constitutional foundation is eroding before our eyes. So I'm not actually sure what will happen in the states in terms of like, whether that process will be preserved, or whether it will go back to you like parental consent only or like, what will happen? We don't know.

Unknown Speaker 10:42

While Can you speak a little bit more to the law that you said is in place that already creates bullshit for people who are assisting people under 18. So DRC

Unknown Speaker 10:56

Yeah, so it's called, we call it the aid and assist law, it's been in effect since 2005. It was passed in 2005. It was challenged and remained in effect. And it says that anyone who helps a young person access abortion care without going through the parental consent process in the state of Missouri, can be sued by anyone who should have received that consent. So like their parent, or their legal guardian can sue the helper. And so that there's no exception for like, okay, but they went to Illinois, and they went through the proper court process in Illinois, there's no exception for that. So they would have to get parental consent or a judicial bypass in the state of Missouri, even if they were going to go to Illinois and get another bypass in order to comply with this law, and not be at risk of being sued. Now, what helped me is, it's really important, because informational support is protected by the First Amendment. And so it really comes down to you like, are you providing material like a ride? Are you providing money, those types of things. And so, on our text line, we've had to be really conscious of that. And so although I wish that we could provide more practical support, like we really are limited to providing medically and legally accurate information and like patient navigation, because we can't cross that

Unknown Speaker 12:33

line. So in that regard, you know, thinking about folks who are providing support, help, abortion, doulas, you know providers, whoever, what, what legal things or ramifications? Should they be? Or possible ramifications? Should they be aware of post roe?

Unknown Speaker 13:03

Well, I think anyone who tries to manage their own abortion outside of whatever process is legal in the state or states that they're interacting with, is at risk of being criminalized for that, or at risk of being sued for that, depending on how the laws shift and change. And, yeah, and anyone who helps and anyone who, you know, tries to self manage and so,

Unknown Speaker 13:34

which you know, I like right now we think of, well, no, that's not let's just not

Unknown Speaker 13:46

there are great legal resources out there for this exact situation. So one thing that like folks should be aware of is that if Wen Hao has a repro legal helpline that is specifically set up to provide legal advice to people who are considering self managing or who are self managing and people who are helping them so they can understand the legal risks that they're taking in the options that they have. So that's a great resource

Unknown Speaker 14:16

definitely list that as a resource because that's that's a good one because there's yeah, there's legal part baby that's the part that is so I mean, all of it scary of course, but it's like who's gonna get criminalized for what you know what I mean like for giving someone a ride or telling you know, like, what, what is that going to go into? So the one

Unknown Speaker 14:39

sorry, can I add one thing? Yeah, for sure. Um, people should you obviously know this, but everyone should know that. The medication abortion like the the experience of it is clinically indistinguishable from miscarriage. And so it is not a requirement that anyone tell anyone at like any health care provider, you know, should they seek here or something that how this miscarriage came about there, you're not required to disclose that. And there's no test for it. And so if it was taken orally, no one will know, if it's taken vaginally, there might be remnants. So people should

Unknown Speaker 15:33

I think that's really important to know. Especially in this, you know, possible heavily on the principle post row space, right? It's like, how do you protect yourself, and also like, not wanting people to put themselves in danger, because they're so fearful of going to be seen when they actually need to be seen? Right? So it's so much to this. So my next question for you is thinking about this post roe way of existing. One of the things that we that I'm like really framing up at, like, in the form of like, being a birth Neo terrorist is always thinking about, like this part of innovation and possibility. And so even with, you know, post Roe, and the bullshit that will come with it, I know for a fact that we're going to keep continuing to do the work, right? Like, we're going to do it, we're gonna continue to do it, we're gonna do it differently. But it's going to continue no matter what. So what do you think is like the future of abortion access? And like, even like, if you could think of maybe some innovation that needs to happen in that space, that you're like, Man, I wish this was available? Or this was this or this has to now exist? Because of Holstebro. So just thinking about like, yeah, the future of abortion access and, and care for, for all of us.

Unknown Speaker 17:01

Big question. But what I what comes to mind is like, unfortunately, I think what we're looking at is like a great need to travel, and a great need to coordinate access via like telecommunications and online resources. And so I think, like, a huge place where we need to innovate is like, how can we make sure that there's a quick, simple way for your average person to like, communicate with others about this in a way that protects their safety and their privacy. And I think that that's like, a huge concern on my mind. And I also think it's a huge opportunity, like if there, and I don't know what that would be, this is just kind of off the top of my head, but like, you know, like, on our tax line, we're confidential and anonymous. So like, if young person Texas, the text goes through a couple pieces of technology, and by the time it lands with us, it's their phone numbers no longer attached to it. So like, that's protective of them, and their safety and their privacy, even from us who are on their side. And there's like, you know, signal, the end to end encrypted messaging app and things like that. But it's like, does everyone who might be seeking this care understand the risks of communicating by other methods, and understand how they can avoid that? So it's like, any way to get that messaging out and make it simple for people? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 18:34

I mean, that's such a big thing. I think, like, when we talk about access, we have to think about access in the sense of language, understanding, like, even when we talk about encryption, like some people don't like what the fuck is encryption, like, I don't even know what that means. Even to like, you know, make it an ethical thing. So I really asked, I agree with you something that simplifying something that is accessible. And I think that accessibility has to be, you know, across language across, you know, education level, the way that we look, it just has to be something that's very simple. And it that even brings in the idea for me around like that intersectionality piece, right. Like, it's gonna be so many people with so many different identities looking for this information. And it brings it in and I talked about this with another guest. There's just like this. This danger that comes around abortion access, right, whether it is clients receiving abortion care, and having to, you know, tiptoe around their family and their their partners, whoever because sometimes it's literally not safe, as well as on the other end of it. If you're someone who was assisting and abortion access, it's not safe for you either. Right? So I don't know. It's just it's a lot. It's a lot. Yeah, it's so much, though my last question for you. And maybe you've had some time to think about it. Is in this work, like we said is gonna keep going, it's gonna keep existing and we're gonna keep doing it. And it's just like right now it's like, you know, the work ebbs and flows right now is a big a big up on this, like, what are we doing? How are we going to do it kind of conversation in that space, and I'm sure you know what you're doing the work that you're doing. It's like, there's always a request for something, there's always something that can be done, it's always a need that can be filled, there's always a gap that needs to be closed. There just it's just on going on top of just being ourselves right being in our own family, our own responsibilities, our our own, you know, caretaking, you know, all that that we're doing. So how are you taking care of yourself? And how do you plan to maintain your wellness during all of this?

Unknown Speaker 20:52

So I can't say that I would advocate for any of the ways I think it does, I feel like very behind on everything. And I feel like, I'm letting things drop here and there. And I'm trying to settle into this, like, I honestly just trying to breathe through those moments and say, You're, you're just gonna do what you can do today. And it's okay. And even if you feel like you could have been way more productive today, like, we're still living through a pandemic, you're fine. That's I have myself over and over. And like, I've also had this, I don't know if this is good or not, but I've had this feeling settle over me. And it's allowed me to be like, bolder in my actions recently, where I'm just like, Fuck it look around, like, what does it what is like any of your concerns about how you might come off, or like all those things that kind of like, hold us back, I'm like, fuck doesn't matter. Like, this is not an act now. Or like, what you may not have your so just go for it. That attitude shift plus just being like, I'm gonna just get what I need to get done until I spend some time with my kids and just have a little fun this evening before our heads hit the pillow. Like, that's just what drives me every day. So like in terms of how am I going to sustain it for the future? I think I had you know, you on a, on a training with you. And you had mentioned something about the way you kind of like, arrange your days around, like, we don't take meetings with new people on certain days and things like that. I tried that

Unknown Speaker 22:37

for UK people we know, yes, I was

Unknown Speaker 22:41

great at that. And it was going well, and then it just all went shit. And so I'm trying to like I do think though, like I felt at my best and my most like able to think like not just react to be really proactive about the things that like the visions that I have the things I want to do when I was doing that and like build that time in. And I think that's the way to go. I'm not doing it well, but I do think that's what needs to happen.

Unknown Speaker 23:01

It's ongoing practice, trust me, it's an ongoing practice. And it's very easy to like build these boundaries, and then let people just creep in. And then before you know it, your counters, like just not at all what you need it to be. And then you have to back away, right, and you have to revisit and you have to, like redo the whole thing and recalibrate. So naming that. And also just like naming that, we in our calendars, you know, making that time for joy, like literally if it means that you have to block out our day, like this is my joy day, like, I'm going to show my kids or maybe I'm not gonna show my kids because sometimes we need not to show with them. But like, whatever it is, I'm gonna show I'm gonna leave back, I'm gonna like, for me, I don't take meetings until 11. And after, because I'm like, in the morning, I'm gonna, like walk my dogs to work out, eat, you know, get myself together. And that gives me a bit of joy, right? So just naming all of that and naming to that, like, as we do the work. It is difficult, and it's hard. And you're gonna have times where you're like, I don't know what the fuck I'm doing for real. And like, you know, my self care has gone to trash, but it's, but it takes community members, you know, even in his dialect, right to be like on his dialogue to be like, what you're doing for yourself, let me remind you that that part is also just as important as doing the work. Right? Because in order for us to be sustainable, right, because this is not like this row thing. It's going to be like a month long, and then it's done. And then and then we move on with life. No, it's gonna be this ongoing thing that we are battling with the you know, the side effects of it that we're not even aware of right now in this moment. So understand that the work is always going to be there is always going to be there. But also you have to take care of yourself in order to maintain doing the work. So

Unknown Speaker 24:54

that's a good reminder. Thank you for that today.

Unknown Speaker 24:57

So can you give us anything that you want us to know? About like contact information, any of that?

Unknown Speaker 25:03

Yeah, um, so I'm on I guess I'm on Instagram at @KraftSpaceSheley is probably the best place to find me. I can like send you if you want to attach like email or anything to this, for sure and right by you is on all social channels that text right by you.

Unknown Speaker 25:32

Gotcha. Well, thank you so much for your time today, and for taking time away from the training you were doing. I appreciate you. And yes, I want to see more of the work but I also want to see I want to see you taking care of yourself in the mix. So thank you again.

Transcribed by

The Birth Neoterist Newsletter
The Birth Neoterist Newsletter
Sabia Wade, The Black Doula